Jose Mourinho’s team selection for the last few weeks has implied he has his sights on one thing, and one thing only – the Europa League.
When fourth place seemingly slipped from the Red Devil’s grasp, Mourinho placed his focus on the Europa League. The eventual champions will secure themselves a spot in Europe’s premier competition next season.
After making hard work of both Anderlecht and Celta Vigo, United find themselves just one game away from making it back to the big time. With names such as Antoine Griezmann being associated with an arrival at Old Trafford, qualification is vital. The best will likely only settle for the creme de la creme of European competition.
The obstacle that stands in their way is a talented yet extremely young Ajax side. They fell agonisingly short of an Eredivisie title and nearly threw away their resounding first leg lead against Lyon. They will venture to Stockholm with nothing to fear; it’s safe to say that the pressure lies firmly on United’s shoulders.
Mourinho has been here and done it, and so too have many of his players. Their experience on the big stage should mean that they manage to fend off any Ajax resistance. Jose’s often astute defensive tactics should nullify the Ajax attack and the Dutch side have shown that they’re hardly formidable at the back.
One player who could be the key to success is Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian only notched four goals in 24 in a somewhat sporadic Premier League season, yet has 5 in 10 in the Europa League, so he may well be the man for the big occasion.
With 13.75 points and 10.75 points against Anderlecht over two legs, he has been vitally important to United’s progress. Add to that another two double figure hauls in the group stages and it’s clear to see how important he’s been. He should provide one of the focal points of attack with Zlatan still out for the match.
The pace of Marcus Rashford could also cause problems for the Ajax defence. He was the key to success against Celta de Vigo, with 12 points and 7.23 points in the two matches. He’s also shown he’s a man for the big occasion even at such a young age, so we wouldn’t put it past him to be the game changer come Wednesday evening.
Alongside Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial may also be worth a pickup for your front three, but it’s likely to be one of those two that completes the United front line – so pick and choose wisely. Martial in particular doesn’t have compelling recent returns, notching 0.75, 0.5 and 1.18 in the last three games he has featured in the Europa League.
If you’re not a believer of a United clean sheet, Kasper Dolberg has to be the choice. He’s notched 12.25, 13.2, 10.25 and 12.25 in his last five games and is the pick of the bunch from an Ajax perspective. Otherwise, take the likes of Phil Jones and Daley Blind to load your squad up with United defenders. The tactic may seem risky, but should United keep a clean sheet it’s likely you’ll be counting your money as you finish atop the Sportito leaderboard.
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